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Is Esperanto a Frankenstein's Monster?

Updated on January 2, 2010

You may think so, if you start reading Esther Schor's article in The New Republic at

http://tinyurl.com/ylqf3zm

With LL Zamenhof as Victor Frankenstein.

Or at least that Esperanto is a Pinocchio, with Zamenhof as a Geppetto.

(Both Frankenstein and Pinocchio, by the way, should preferably be known through the original books av Mary Shelley and Carlo Collodi, respectively. Disney mistreated Pinocchio badly, and Boris Karloff was even worse with Frankenstein. Neither Frankenstein nor his monster had anything to do with Transylvania, in the original story; Victor Frankenstein came from Geneva, not yet a part of Switzerland, made his monster in Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Germany, and died after a last confrontation with the monster in a ship on its way to the North Pole. Transylvania? Perhaps the film-makers wanted to re-use some stage decorations left over from Dracula - but that's a completely different story.)

Schor's article is quite good. She takes up especially Zamenhof's religious ideas, his relation to the Jewish intellectual tradition, and the confrontation between his Jewish mysticism on one hand, and on the other the secularism and rationalism of the early French esperantists, in connection with the first Universal Congress of Esperanto, which took place in France in 1905. She also describes how the Esperanto language and movement has managed to survive several quite harsh internal conflicts (Esperanto is a wonderful language for quarreling!).

And, thinking about Frankenstein's monster, perhaps we shouldn't forget that in the book, the monster is much more civilized than many a natural born citizen.

(After all, mustn't a "natural born citizen" be any citizen who isn't a Homunculus, a Golem, or an Android?)

As far as I know, Frankenstein isn't yet translated into Esperanto, but Pinocchio is - even twice; in 1930 by Mirza Marchesi, and in 2003 by Horváth József (in esperanto Jozefo Horváth).

Schor - professor of English at Princeton - has written about Frankenstein as well.

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